Effect of Dentures on Breath Testing: Mouth Alcohol Reconsidered

     The problems with mouth alcohol in breath testing are well known.  The screening devices used at roadside by police officers in Georgia are incapable of detecting mouth alcohol since they are not even programmed with slope detection capabilities.  Supposedly, the Intoxilyzer 5000, which is used for evidential breath alcohol tests in Georgia, is different.

     In cases where dental appliances are not removed from a subject’s mouth before breath testing, a small amount of alcohol can remain under the dentures or other device.  If food particles are trapped, it is also possible that some of the alcohol will be absorbed into the food particles.  In either case the elimination of this alcohol during the twenty minute observation period (which is only a suggestion in Georgia) will not be complete and will cause an elevated reading on the Intoxilyzer 5000. 

     In one experiment a man with both upper and lower dentures registered a BrAC of .00 when the experiment began.  After swishing with alcohol and waiting for 20 minutes, the tests were indeed flagged as “invalid samples,” which means that the machine detected mouth alcohol.  Both the dentures and mouth were then rinsed with water.  Approximately sixteen minutes later he was tested again using the same protocol, and the results were .029 and .021.  After rinsing the mouth and dentures yet again and then submitting to another sequence of breath tests, the results were .038 and .17 less than one minute apart.  At the beginning of each testing sequence a baseline BrAC of .00 was obtained before swishing the alcohol.

     Additional testing has confirmed these findings.  Elevated breath alcohol results were consistently reported without the detection of mouth alcohol when people talked and breathed normally during the “observation period.”  Most significantly, there was no decrease between the two test results in the sequence as would be expected with mouth alcohol.  These observations make it fairly certain that breath alcohol tests results may be inflated when an individual has dentures or other significant dental work, such as a bridge, in his or her mouth.

 Written by Allen Trapp who is board certified by the National College for DUI Defense and the author of Georgia DUI Survival Guide Visit Website

    

Written by Allen Trapp who is board certified by the National College for DUI Defense and the author of Georgia DUI Survival Guide Visit Website

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